This article is the final installment in a five-part series.
Hello again college football fans, FSU ones in particular! I had stated in the previous article that my final two in this series would be covering our youngest coaches and my belief that they are rising stars in the coaching business. Last time I previewed new quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig, and how I feel he will continue in the tradition of Fisher in terms of coaching our QBs. This article is all about our new Defensive Ends Coach Darin "D.J." Eliot.
He replaces the departed Jody Allen, who I realized when reading his coaching biography was extremely underqualfied to coach defensive ends. His motto of speed off the edge was ineffective and our ends were routinely demolished in the run game in 2009. Not to mention he made an extremely bizarre decision to start a walk-on against Miami, and some behind-the-scenes issues made players despise him, or at the very least fail to trust him.
I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of Eliot when he was first hired. My skepticism turned to excitement when I read that he came very highly regarded from our new defensive boss Mark Stoops, and also Will Muschamp, Texas's defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting. Both men are widely regarded as being some of the best defensive coordinators in the country, and that alone almost convinced me Eliot was the right man to replace Allen.
What he was able to accomplish at Rice, Tulsa, and other schools along with his excellent recommendations fully convinced me he was yet another fanstastic hire by Jimbo Fisher. He got his start coaching at Wyoming as a student and a graduate assistant after playing linebacker for three seasons with the Cowboys. He then landed another graduate assistantship at Miami where he worked with Coach Stoops in the secondary, and built a relationship for years to come.
He earned his first full-time job at Texas State in 2003 under David Baliff coaching the defensive backs, and then coaching linebackers for two years. He was then able to land a job with Tulsa coaching the linebackers where he developed three all-conference perfomers and the C-USA defensive player of the year in Nick Bunting, and helped the team earn a berth in the Armed Forces Bowl. He then reunited with David Baliff in 2008 when Baliff became the head coach at Rice. This is where his stock began to rise in the coaching world as a defensive ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
Before I talk about Coach Eliot's success as Rice's defensive ends coach, let me give you an idea of what type of school Rice is like. Rice has stringent academic standards that rival the Ivy League schools, and a lot of times at a prestigious academic school if they have sports their primary focus will be baseball. Not to mention defensive linemen are the most prone to being academically ineligible, and combine that with Rice's academic standards then you have one tough recruiting sell. Eliot had to essentially pick the leftovers from Texas Tech, Houston, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, SMU, TCU, Baylor, most of the Big 12, and pretty much every other school that recruits Texas heavily.
Eliot had to start with guys who could qualify first, which compared to a big school would be like having a whole unit of walk-ons. What impressed me was despite that, in Rice's magical 10-3 season in 2008, he developed two true freshman ends that combined for 124 tackles that led all C-USA defensive lineman. Even more impressive they also combined for 24 TFL's and 11 sacks, not to mention they played a big role in Rice having a 10 win season in 2008.
What those stats show is that Eliot seems to be adept at developing talent and coaching them up. I can only imagine what he can do with the elite athletes we have at FSU if he can coach guys that are essentially walk-ons to that type of production. Another reason he is a great fit at FSU is because his ends at Rice weighed an average of 260-265 lbs.
While this may not seem like a big deal, some of what contributed to FSU's porous run defense in 2009 was the fact our defensive ends were getting routinely blown off the ball by offensive linemen who outweighed them by over 50 lbs. When they get to this weight or even a little more, it has been proven that they will be able to stand their ground, have a more powerful base, and not be pushed around so easily.
This will also help in the area of pass-rushing. Pure speed off the edge will not get it done any more in college football as many coaches have schemed around making it virtually ineffective. Now what defensive ends need to be able to do is collapse the pocket so that if a defense decides to blitz, it will shrink the pocket and the chance of sacking the QB greatly increases.
Jimbo finally got the man he wanted to coach our defensive ends because when you look at our defensive end unit, most of them are very talented and were at least four or five stars according to the recruiting services. Allen could not cut it, and now FSU has a coach that is a rising star, and surely will have our defensive ends playing like they did in the 90's when we has Andre Wadsworth and Jamal Reynolds.
This is my final piece in this installment so tell me what you think. In the next couple of days, I will be looking at how spring practice is going for the Noles and try to have a report about the scrimmage. Until next time and Fear the Spear!